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Using historical freight traffic records, recent research has shown that the conversion to standard gauge instigated a large shift of North–South freight traffic away from coastal steamships to all-rail carriage.[12] These effects were especially strong on short routes, where breaks in gauge were more expensive relative to the total cost and duration of carriage. However, the data indicate that the gauge change had no effect on total shipments, likely as a result of anticompetitive conduct by Southern freight carriers which prevented the railroads' cost-savings from being passed through to their prices. This research suggests that had Southern carriers not been colluding, the gauge change would have generated a sharp reduction in freight rates and immediate growth in trade between the North and South.


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